Earn Airline Miles Without Flying
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Do you want to travel more? There is an airline miles trick that airlines do not want you to know.
You can earn airline miles, even without flying. And it doesn't require you to use the airline's co-branded credit card.
A one-airline strategy can work for some people. For instance, if you live in a rural area with limited airline choices.
But for the vast majority, that is a mistake.
Do this instead. With the right credit card, you can earn points with your everyday spending and convert them to miles to fly on the airline that works for you. We'll explain below why this is the better route for most people.
Plus, you can skyrocket your mileage balance by taking advantage of the right credit card promotion. Read on.
Travel Transfer Partners
Did you know: Some credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express (a CreditDonkey partner), allow you to transfer points to participating airline's frequent flyer program.
$95 Annual Fee, But Here's Why It's Worth Considering
Our favorite is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has a huge bonus point offer and premium travel benefits. Read on to see if the Sapphire Preferred is worth it.
Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can earn 5,000 bonus points if you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months from account opening. This card lets you earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. The card has a $0 foreign transaction fee. The card also comes with premium travel and purchase protection benefits (including trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver). There is an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.
Chase Sapphire Preferred hotel transfer partners include Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, and The Ritz-Carlton. Marriott operates 30 brands including Renaissance, Residence Inn, and Courtyard.
If you want to fly American, you can use British Airways to book a partner flight on American Airlines (and other oneworld alliance partners).
If you prefer to convert points to American Airlines (AA) or Delta, take a look at Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) credit card, which allows you to transfer points from SPG to AA or Delta at a 1:1 ratio.
But this card is not for everyone. Because the rewards and benefits are so jaw-dropping, the application process is selective. You'll need excellent/good credit to qualify.
To learn more, click here to visit Chase' secure website. You'll find the online application there and details on the 50,000 bonus point promotion. Remember, banks change their promotional offers all the time, so if you have great credit, now is the time to apply.
Do you spend over $1,000 per month?
Take a close look at the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, a CreditDonkey partner. It's a hotel credit card with an interesting twist. We'll explain.
Most airline credit cards only earn 1 mile per dollar spent. But with SPG, you can effectively earn 25% more since it offers 5,000 bonus Starpoints when you transfer 20,000 points to an airline transfer partner in a single transaction.
Starwood Preferred Guest offers 25,000 bonus Starpoints® if you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your new card account. You can earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. This limited time offer ends 4/5. You earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. You earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases. You can redeem points at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries with no blackout dates. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is a $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year). Terms apply.
AMEX Membership Rewards
Do you spend over $334 per month?
Interest Rates and Fees
|Introductory APR for Purchases||0% introductory APR for 12 months||0% introductory APR for 12 months|
|Introductory APR for Balance Transfers||0% introductory APR for 12 months||0% introductory APR for 12 months|
|Purchase APR||13.49% to 23.49% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors||13.49% to 23.49% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors|
|Balance Transfers APR||13.49% to 23.49% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors||13.49% to 23.49% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors|
|See Rates & Fees||See Rates & Fees|
Benefits and Features
|Introductory Bonus Reward Points||Introductory Bonus Reward Points: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.||Introductory Bonus Reward Points: Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.|
|Point Rewards||Point Rewards: 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.||Point Rewards: 3x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.|
|Bonus Reward Points||Bonus Reward Points: Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.||Bonus Reward Points: Use your Card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.|
|Grocery Rewards||Grocery Rewards: 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x). Terms and limitations apply.||Grocery Rewards: 3x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x). Terms and limitations apply|
|Gas Rewards||Gas Rewards: 2x points at US gas stations. Terms and limitations apply|
Both cards earn AMEX Membership Rewards points that you can transfer to airline transfer partners for frequent flyer miles.
|Annual Fee||Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195|
|See Rates & Fees||See Rates & Fees|
Benefits and Features
|Introductory Bonus Reward Points||Introductory Bonus Reward Points: Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.||Introductory Bonus Reward Points: Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.|
|Airline Status||Airline Status: $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 a year for baggage fees and more at one airline. Terms Apply.|
Access to 5 airport lounge networks including The Centurion® lounge network, The International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club® lounges, Priority Pass(TM) Select, and Airspace Lounge. Enrollment required for Priority Pass Select.
|Airline Status: $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.|
|Hotel Status||Hotel Status: Enroll in complimentary SPG Gold Status (Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Preferred Guest).|
Enroll to enjoy the benefits of complimentary Hilton HHonors(TM) Gold Status.
Fine Hotels & Resorts - book your stay through American Express FHR at one of 600 luxury hotels and you may get a room upgrade upon arrival, daily continental breakfast for 2, guaranteed 4pm late checkout and a special amenity unique to each property.
|Airline Rewards||Airline Rewards: Earn 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.||Airline Rewards: Earn 3X points for flights booked with airlines|
|Point Rewards||Point Rewards: Earn 1 point for virtually every dollar spent.||Point Rewards: 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.|
- The Platinum Card offers Airport Club Access to 3 airport lounge networks, including Delta Sky Club lounges, Centurion Lounge, and Priority Pass Select. Priority Pass Select includes access to over 600 participating airport lounges worldwide. But is it worth the $450 annual fee? Read our in-depth AMEX Platinum review for our thoughts.
- Premier Rewards Gold Card has a $195 annual fee, but if you spend a lot booking flights directly with airlines, it might be worth it. Read our in-depth Premier Rewards Gold Card review for our opinion.
The trick to traveling more is to be smart about how you earn airline miles.
Don't restrict yourself to earning miles just by flying or by using the airline's co-branded credit card.
Take advantage of credit card airline transfer partners to rack up more miles toward free flights and upgrades.
Of course, airline miles are not for everybody.
- If you have credit card debt, consider a low interest credit card instead. Most rewards credit cards have a high interest rate. That's fine if you pay off your balance in full each month. But if you are in debt, the last thing you should think about is traveling and taking vacations.
- If you do not have good credit, consider a credit card for people with fair credit or no credit. While they do not usually offer travel rewards or perks, if you use them responsibly, you can help build your credit history - which would help you in the long run.
- If you don't want to use airline miles but still want to travel, take a look at general travel rewards credit cards such as the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which earns 2x miles on all purchases. But the "miles" cannot be transferred to airline transfer partners. Think of them as points that you can redeem them for travel statement credits toward eligible travel purchases.
Credit card offers, redemption options and values can change at any time. If you have great credit, now is the time to apply. Keep in mind: taxes, fees and surcharges may apply. Terms and limitations apply.
Charles Tran is the founder of CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Charles Tran at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.